Religious Freedom Center > Events
This public conversation will explore the complex politics of race and religious freedom in our contemporary moment.
This program is the first in a series of public events exploring the politics of religious freedom and introduces some of the key themes that will be featured in our January 2019 intensive course, “African Americans and Religious Freedom.”
The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook (Ambassador Sujay) is an instructor at the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center. Nominated by Secretary Hillary Clinton and appointed by President Barack Obama, she was the third U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, becoming the first woman, first African American and first faith leader to hold this post. She visited more than 28 countries and had more than 100 U.S. diplomatic engagements, always focusing on her mission and always, whenever possible, sitting with women of the various nations with which she engaged. Previously, she was the first female chaplain for the New York City Police Department, where she served 21 years and was on the frontlines of Sept. 11. She was a founding member of A Partnership of Faith and served as a senior parish pastor for three New York City congregations. She was the first female president of the historic Hampton University Ministers Conference, the largest conference of African-American clergy in the world, leading some 12,000 clergy leaders. She is widely published and proficient as a preacher and keynote speaker through her own professional speakers’ bureau.
Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D., is professor and dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C. She is a scholar of African-American religious history, womanist theology, African-American literature and race and religion. In addition to being a widely published author, Pierce is a dedicated mentor, community activist, board member of a foster care agency, cable news commentator and native New Yorker. For additional information, please visit her website, http://www.yolandapierce.com, or follow her on Twitter (@ynpierce).
Corey D. B. Walker is a scholar of African-American social, political and religious thought. He currently serves as vice president of Virginia Union University and 10th dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, where he is also professor of religion and society. In 2018, he was appointed Senior Fellow in Religious Freedom at the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, D.C. Prior to his current position, he served as a member of the faculty and in administrative leadership positions at Brown University, University of Virginia and Winston-Salem State University. He is the author of A Noble Fight: African American Freemasonry and the Struggle for Democracy in America (University of Illinois Press), editor of the special issue of the journal Political Theology on “Theology and Democratic Futures” and associate editor of the award-winning SAGE Encyclopedia of Identity. He has published more than 50 articles, reviews, book chapters and essays appearing in a wide range of scholarly journals and co-directed/co-produced the documentary film fifeville with acclaimed artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. Currently, he is finalizing his next book exploring race, religion and American public life titled, Between Transcendence and History: An Essay on Religion and the Future of Democracy in America.
Brad Braxton, Ph.D., is director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University, a master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar. Braxton’s expertise in religion, diversity, inclusion and social justice makes him a highly sought-after public speaker.
Braxton is also a seasoned educator who has held lectureships at Georgetown University, Harvard Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary, as well as professorships at Southern Methodist University, Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University. Additionally, he is the founding senior pastor of The Open Church, a culturally inclusive congregation in Baltimore.
Participants are invited to a reception prior to the program.
This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Religious Freedom Center, as a nonpartisan and nonsectarian initiative, is committed to promoting dialogue and understanding among people of all religious traditions and none. We carry out this mission by providing civil dialogue training and workshops, hosting the Committee on Religious Liberty, and building partnerships with organizations that represent a broad spectrum of religious and ideological perspectives.
Religious and civic leaders, educators, and business leaders are uniquely positioned to help cultivate an informed and engaged citizenry. Having the ability to facilitate dialogue is a key leadership skill for the 21st century. As sharp ideological divisions continue to polarize our communities, we need leaders who have the skills to engage people and communities who hold a variety of legal, ideological, religious and nonreligious perspectives.
We invite you to join one of our full-day civil dialogue training sessions or to schedule one with your community. The workshops will be facilitated by Rev. Kristen Farrington, civil dialogue specialist and director of the Religious Freedom Center.
We have recently seen several long-time leaders in the field of religious freedom — with various political perspectives and of diverse faiths — step down from their positions, some to seek other opportunities and others to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Interestingly, as these friends of the Religious Freedom Center have moved on, the new leaders of these organizations, which have been historically led by men, are now mostly women.
While each organization is different, and doubtless each of them sought the best person for the job, this development raises several interesting questions: Has something changed at these institutions to expand the talent pool in which they are looking — and does that have something to do with changes in their respective faith traditions? Is there some change, from the perspective of the candidates for these jobs, in terms of seeing these positions as right for them? What are the top advocacy issues on which these new leaders are working, and does their bringing a woman’s perspective to the job make a difference? What are the implications of current religious freedom issues for women in particular? To what extent, if any, do these leaders see part of their role as influencing the role of women in their respective faiths and denominations, as opposed to dealing with external legal and societal issues?
Join the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center for a panel discussion among current female executive directors of prominent religious liberty organizations on the rising role of women in leading these organizations. Melissa Rogers, former special assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will moderate.
The panelists include:
Studies demonstrate that employees who can bring their "whole selves" to the workplace perform better in many bottom line key indicator areas. Bringing one’s whole self includes religious identity. Many companies, however, are struggling to navigate religion and beliefs at work.
In fact, 36 percent of American workers — approximately 50 million people — have experienced or witnessed religious discrimination in the workplace, with religious majorities, minorities and non-religious employees all reporting this experience. This has direct impact on employee and company performance. Additionally, while companies have rightly paid significant attention to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, workplace religious discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outnumber sexual orientation complaints two-to-one.
Addressing religion and belief in the workplace is the next big focus. Join us Wednesday, Feb. 13 for an in-depth discussion of workplace religion and beliefs and an introduction to resources to help organizations large and small design successful policies and procedures for honoring religion in the workplace.
This panel discussion will include top business leaders speaking in support of workplace religious diversity and inclusion (RDI). Leaders will provide a business case for why RDI helps bottom lines and outline best practices being implemented in workplaces to facilitate religious expression and engagement at work.
The program will also feature the soft launch of the Corporate Religious Diversity Assessment, an internal, qualitative assessment tool created in partnership by Tanenbaum and the RFBF. Until now, there has been no public tool for companies to specifically measure the success of their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as they relate to religion. Inspired by the framework of the RFBF’s Corporate Pledge, the CRDA provides a solid framework for businesses and organizations to evaluate their religious DEI efforts on a global scale, and then identify and initiate next steps in their DEI journey.
The Religious Freedom Center and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) invite you to join a panel of experts for a timely discussion about the role of religious studies in the public school curriculum. What is religious literacy and why is it essential for citizenship in a religiously diverse society and world? The event celebrates the publication of “Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom,” an invaluable new resource from NCSS.
The study of religion is essential for understanding the past and present, and critical for global citizenship in a religiously diverse country and world. This book provides advice, recommendations, and resources to help social studies educators know what to teach about religion and how to do it.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that teaching about religion is constitutional in public schools, as long as the approach is academic, not devotional. The contributors to this book offer guidelines for classroom instruction that is both constitutionally and academically sound. They clarify the First Amendment issues that impact teachers and schools, and emphasize that the study of religion in schools is an essential part of a good education.
The authors explore the diversity of religious traditions and suggest ways of teaching about them objectively, especially through creative pedagogies that engage students actively and offer them a more profound understanding of these traditions than many textbooks provide. This invaluable book will help teachers promote knowledge and understanding in the place of stereotypes as they advance religious literacy among their students.
|Benjamin P. Marcus||Charles C. Haynes||Kristen Farrington||Scott Abbott||Susan Douglas|
Workshop: Religious Literacy Workshop Aims to Understand Growing Diversity
We are now a nation of religious minorities: according to a major study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, no one sect or denomination accounts for more than 50 percent of the population. At the same time, FBI data indicates that growing religious diversity has been accompanied by an increase in religion-related hate crimes. Religious education can enhance recognition of the fundamental rights of people of all religions and none.
Join us for an interactive religious literacy workshop to gain essential knowledge and skills that promote understanding of increasingly religiously diverse communities. We will apply these essentials to real-world case studies on religion and race, immigration and sexuality. Recent cases such as arson attacks on three African-American churches in Louisiana and a California mosque will be part of the conversation.
Facilitated by Benjamin P. Marcus
Lunch Break (on your own)
Workshop: “Civil Dialogue: Antidote to the Zero Sum Game”
Our country is more polarized than ever around significant issues that impact the everyday lives of Americans. A pluralistic democracy depends on a marketplace of ideas, but in our current highly charged climate many Americans find themselves fostering a binary view of the world – us vs. them. The complexity of the issues facing our nation require leaders to be able to engage with people who are different from themselves and have the skills to find common ground with those they fundamentally disagree.
To be effective leaders we need to become civil dialogue practitioners, who can help our communities effectively navigate deep differences. This workshop will focus on the difference between dialogue and other kinds of engagement, the essential skills of dialogue, how to create an environment that promotes civil dialogue, and tips for turning down the ‘heat’ when dialogue gets tough.
Facilitated by Kristen Farrington
The registration cost is $50 per person for these workshops. Seats are limited. Registration is required. For more information, please contact Blair Forlaw at [email protected]
This public conversation will explore the ethics and complex politics of race and religious freedom by centering the issues, narratives and experiences of African Americans in the United States.
This program is the second in a series of public events exploring the politics of religious freedom through our “Religious Freedom: African American Perspectives” project. During this program, participants will hear from scholars, practitioners and community leaders who are making invaluable contributions to this critical discussion. This program is also designed to encourage participants to think through practical ways to take action around religious freedom issues in their community. Participants will engage in small group discussions, a community talkback session and explore opportunities to think through next steps together.
Tisa Joy Wenger, Ph.D., is associate professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School as well as of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. She is the author of “Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal” (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
Corey D.B. Walker, Ph.D. (moderator), visiting professor at the University of Richmond and senior fellow, Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute.
Teresa Smallwood, J.D., Ph.D., associate director for Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt University.
Alphonso F. Saville IV, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow for the Study of American Religion and Slavery at Georgetown University.
Faith Harris, D.Min. (moderator), assistant professor of Theology and director, Johnson A. Edosomwan Center for Faith, Leadership, and Public Life at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.
Itihari Toure, Ed.D., director of the Sankofa Center for Data Evaluation and Quality Enhancement at Interdenominational Theological Center.
Charles Watson Jr., M.Div., director of education for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Mandisa L. Thomas, founder and president, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Iva Carruthers, Ph.D., general secretary of Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a social justice network that engages progressive African-American faith leaders.
The Rev. Thomas Bowen (moderator), director of the Office of Religious Affairs in the Executive Office of the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and interim director of the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs and the Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys.
Rahmah A. Abdulaleem, Esq., executive director, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
Charity L. Woods, co-founder and managing director, Interfaith Voices for Reproductive Justice.
Shavon Arline-Bradley, MPH, M.Div., founding principal of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions LLC, a public health, policy/advocacy, faith and executive leadership firm.
The Rev. William H. Lamar IV, M.Div., pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington.
This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Religious Freedom Center and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) will host a celebration of the publication of “Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom,” an invaluable new resource from NCSS.
About the Book: The study of religion is essential for understanding the past and present, and critical for global citizenship in a religiously diverse country and world. This book provides advice, recommendations and resources to help social studies educators know what to teach about religion and how to do it.
|Charles C. Haynes||Benjamin P. Marcus||Kristen Farrington||Susan Douglas||Donna Phillips, PhD|
The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute will host the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Summer Religious Studies Institute at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The program, to be held July 9 – 11, 2019, will convene K-12 public school educators in the nation’s capital to explore issues of religious freedom and diversity in the classroom. Educators will learn about religious studies as an academic discipline, and have the opportunity to develop working relationships with leading religious studies subject matter experts and curricular resource providers.
The NCSS Summer Religious Studies Institute is limited to 60 participants. For more information and to register, please visit socialstudies.org.
This three-session intensive will give local interns the opportunity to learn about the role of religion in public life while exploring our three areas of competency: religious liberty, religious literacy, and civil dialogue. We will host the interns on three Fridays during the month of July. Participants will be introduced to experts who are actively engaged in addressing these issues in their local and national context.
The registration period is now – July 7, 2019. The registration cost is $40 per person which covers all three training sessions. For questions, please contact Dr. Sabrina Dent, director of programs and partnerships, at [email protected].